Kawasaki 1400 GTR Road Test
Welcome Aboard the Night Train
The first thing that strikes you, once you sling a leg across the 1400GTR, is how long and low the bike is. Like many big Kawasakis from the last 20 years or so this is not a motorcycle designed to accommodate only riders six feet tall or more.
I’m not that tall and after my experience with it I’d say that even a relatively short-in-the-leg guy, or gal, will be able to get their foot down at junctions with no problem. Plus the electric screen was exactly the right height for me, so there was no wind buffeting at all. Some tourers have a very narrow comfort zone behind the screen, and that zone is often a few inches over my head.
Plenty of Technology
The 1400GTR has lots of gadgets and features to justify its £13,699 price tag.
For example you get K-ACT, which is a linked anti-lock braking system. It splits the braking force between the tyres, depending on the speed, road conditions and rider preference. You also get KTRC traction control, so the bike shouldn’t wheelspin away from junctions on wet roads. No wheelies either, just in case you were thinking the 1400 GTR would make an excellent stunt bike…
On the dashboard you get a power socket, plus a central console which lets you see your average MPG, remaining range, fuel gauge etc, which you can view using a scroll button on the left hand handlebar.
There’s multi-adjustable suspension front and rear, plus – and this so necessary on many modern bikes – you can adjust the angle of the headlamp beam when two up, by using the buttons on the dash. Hurray for common sense.
Stability at Speed
The sheer stability of the 1400GTR at speed is amazing. This proved a bonus, as the test weekend involved a long ride from MCO Motorcycle Centre near Wigan to the BMF Tail End at Peterborough and the weather went to bag wash on Sunday.
The ride home was in very windy conditions, with headwinds battering me on the M6 and side winds giving me hell on the M6 Toll Road section. But unlike machines I’ve tested in the past, such as the VFR800, ST1100/1300 Pan Euro, Triumph Sprint ST, BMW R1150RT and many more, the big Kawasaki hardly flinched in gale force conditions.
Whoever designed the fairing and luggage knows what they are doing. The feeling of confidence you get when the weather gets rough is impressive. Great job
Performance, Braking and Handling
Let’s be honest, this isn’t a true sports-tourer. It’s just too heavy and the steering is a tad sluggish. Bikes like the Triumph Sprint 1050, or the old 955 for that matter, would disappear into the distance on a twisty road in Bavaria.
The big four cylinder engine is fast, and it makes 155bhp, but like the Yamaha FJR1300, this is more touring machine than sporty weekend bike for the backroads. It feels heavy and a little ponderous. Though it can be hustled through corners at speed you have to leave time and room to brake and settle it before turning in.
Fuel Economy and Luggage
The 1400GTR has an `Eco’ mode which tells the engine chip to adjust the fuel/air mixture so it runs leaner at low rpm. I didn’t try it and I’m not convinced it would make much difference. This is a bike heavy bike which takes a lot of energy to get moving. It is going to eat fuel at a car-like rate doing anything but a restrained cruise.
Why would you buy a £13,000 touring bike if economy was your thing? Get a Versys 650…or a 125 scooter. The 1400GTR is no commuter, for despite its comfort, you’ll struggle to see more than 42-44mpg on the dashboard readout.
The panniers were excellent. No leaks in wet weather and they have inner, zip up bags too. Easy to use locking mechanism, and you use the ignition key to unlock them.
The panniers are standard by the top case is extra; this also used a different key, which is poor thinking. Another bit of poor design is the keyless ignition, which basically means you need two keys, as one work as a proximity sensor and the other slots into the ignition as normal. Why bother Kawasaki?
Verdict: Worth the Money?
I found the bike really, really comfortable over 400 miles or so, in all types of weather. It’s a relaxed thing to ride too, with an effortless engine and an uncanny, rock solid dependability at speed. There’s plenty of room for a passenger, so if you want a bike that can do two or three big trips across Europe each summer then this will do the job.
Is it as involving as big BMW 1200 GS? No, it lacks the `chuckability’ of the GS. It also lacks the sporty edge of say a VFR1200, although I estimate that the Kawasaki is much better on fuel consumption than the thirsty Honda.
I have to say that the 1400GTR looks ugly too. For me, that matters, but you might think how the bike rides is way more important. My advice is test ride the 1400GTR – it’s the only way to know if the bike `fits’ you.
MCO Motorcycles Orrell, Lancashire for the test bike.
Insurance cover by Principal Insurance Manchester